Amazon’s acquisition of Wholefoods, a brick and mortar retailer, supported the importance of physical stores in today’s hypercompetitive retail environment. McKinsey marketing also predicted that by 2020, more than 80% sales in the US retail market will still happen within the four walls of a store. So, stores are going nowhere, only their role is changing to match the needs of tech-savvy digital customers.
For any retailer, to achieve omnichannel, stores are becoming most important in channel integration. Most omnichannel initiatives deal with stores such as find in store, reserve in store, ship from store, buy online pick up in store, ship to store, and return in store. These initiatives are driving traffic to stores and reducing the delivery service levels. To take these initiatives to customers, retailers are investing a lot on digitizing services such as mobile apps, location-based promotions, price matching, and informational blogs. All these along with other general retail applications can help the customer to gain a lot of information about the product and its availability.
At the same time, retailers ignored the importance of making stores as knowledgeable as their customers. Well-informed customers walk into stores expecting stores to know more than what they know, but the reality is different. 61% of US retail store managers opined that customers are better connected to product information than store associates. This leads to the digital disconnect between the customers and stores.
This digital gap can be addressed by empowering store associates with up to date information about customers, products, and digitizing store operations. Below are some of the key initiatives, involving digital tools, to implement in stores.
- Access to universal cart and check out on sales floor
- Through a mobile application enable store associates to pull customer’s online cart in store to edit, modify, and complete the sale
- Help the customers in completing checkout using mobile POS without making them wait at checkout lines
- Engage customers like a product expert
- Through a mobile or kiosk application, provide up to date information to store associates about products such as pricing, specifications, images, how to use videos, promotions, offers, customer reviews, availability in store, availability across the enterprise, location of item in store, customer’s past purchases, favorites, saved products, past store visits, and shipping preferences
- Loaded with this, associates can initiate more meaningful and engaging conversations proactively than just trying to answer what customers ask for
- Digitize omnichannel fulfillment activities
- Implement a light warehouse management application on mobile which allow the store associates to complete all fulfillment activities digitally
- This helps the stores to avoid manual processes such as paper-based picking and label generation using 3rd party applications
- Digital Task Management
- The changing role of store involves associates in multiple activities other than regular shelf replenishment and sales tasks
- This brings the need for a task management application which helps the store manager to schedule and allocate tasks to associates
- Task management coupled with information such as store traffic, peak hours, weather, local events, customer appointments, and scheduled store deliveries allow stores to utilize labor effectively by prioritizing and allocating tasks in an optimized way
- Digital Planogram Compliance
- A quick alert on the associate’s mobile about a misplaced item or planogram compliance helps the stores to act on immediately
- Misplaced item alert may save a lost sale opportunity from a customer who wish to buy a product but couldn’t because of its unavailability on the shelf
- This is highly beneficial for specialty retailers where losing a potential sale opportunity is costly
- Associate Collaboration
- Providing a platform for stores to interact or share information among themselves help store associates to be updated on what’s happening across stores and to get insights on customer behavior
- Real time Insights to stores
- Mine store’s data on a daily basis and present that information to store managers as a dashboard view
- Insights such as most selling items, slow moving items, coupon utilization, markdown item sales, omnichannel order fulfillment rates, order cancellation rates, most visiting departments, and average shipping delays help stores to make informed decisions
- Self-paced training module
- Developing mobile-based, self-paced training module for store associates which can be accessed anytime help them acquiring knowledge on various topics such as retail processes, procedures, and customer engagement
Stores with digital tools certainly improve the customer experience in store and also boosts the confidence of store associates. A recent research claimed that around 72% of customers who dealt with associates having digital tools in assisting felt their shopping experience to be much better